By Bill Rudick
WEST GROVE—In Saturday’s District championship game, Charlotte deVries was credited with an assist on four of the Pioneers five goals. Tuesday evening at Avon Grove, deVries opted to finish herself, notching all four goals in Conestoga’s 4-1 win over Hershey in the opening round of the PIAA Class AAA field hockey tournament.
The Pioneers advance to Saturday’s quarter-final round, where they will square off against the District 3 runner-up, Penn Manor, a 5-0 opening round winner over Pine Richland, at a site and time to be determined.
“We were really tested defensively in the first half,” said Pioneers’ coach Megan Smyth. “They really showed what they were made of, and carried that on to the second half.”
Unlike the last couple of games for the Pioneers, they got to play with an early lead instead of erase an early deficit. Not quite three minutes in, deVries got a ball just over midfield, out-raced a Hershey defender and unleashed a shot from the top of the circle to make it 1-0 Conestoga.
Over the next twelve minutes, Hershey amped up the pressure inside the circle, forcing six penalty corners to just one for ‘Stoga over that stretch. To make things more difficult, senior captain Sophie Grove went down after being struck by a shot on goal, and didn’t return until the second half.
“We were all concerned to see Sophie go down,” said Pioneers’ goalie Ali Showers, who finished the night with five saves. “But we also knew that Madelyn (Weiss) was well-prepared to fill-in. We just had to stay positive and keep playing our best.”
The Trojans finally got on the board with a little over two minutes to play in the first half when they were awarded a penalty stroke. Taylor Massage took the stroke and banged one off the back of the cage to tie the game at 1-1.
Conestoga has had a habit all season of answering an opposing goal with one of their own, and in a fairly odd twist, were awarded a penalty stoke themselves 30 seconds later. deVries took the stroke, and sent a rocket over the right shoulder of Hershey goalie Kit Olmstead.
“I don’t think we’ve had a penalty stroke all year,” said deVries. “I was definitely nervous, but I just took a deep breath and got set. I didn’t really try to read the goalie too much. I just took the shot and it went in. But this wasn’t just me, the whole team was great tonight. The defense in particular was amazing.”
The score made it 2-1 headed into the break, and Hershey never seemed to recover.
“That was an important part of the game,” said Smyth. “It was incredible to watch, but it was also a big turning point in the game for us. We really needed that to get a fire back under us. It did, and we carried that through the rest of the game.”
deVries would score twice more in the game, connecting on a backhanded bullet from the top of the circle with 13:43 to play, and one final time when Olmstead cleared a shot, and deVries took the rebound and slammed it home.
“She’s incredible,” said Smyth of deVries. “She’s just incredible. I couldn’t be more proud of her. She sets up her teammates to score, but obviously she can finish if she wants to. I can’t say enough good things about her.”
Hershey 1 0 –1
Conestoga 2 2 –4
Goalie Saves: Olmstead (H) 6, Showers ( C ) 5